Sunday, August 7, 2011

Godzillapalooza #4: Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
Monster Profile:


-LENGTH: 213 feet (for Mothra's first four G-series appearances, she has a wingspan of 443 feet. For the later movies, it was increased to 574 feet)
-MASS: 16,500 tons (from '92 on, her mass was increased to 22,000 tons)
-SPECIAL POWERS: Flight at Mach 3 and hurricane force winds. Mothra also can release a poison powder from her wings. In Mothra's first appearance in the Heisei series (1984-1999), she received considerable upgrades, including antenna ray blasts and reflective wing scales that can counter enemy attacks.
-BACKGROUND: Mothra is the protector and Deity of her people on Infant Island and her twin fairy priestesses. She is a monster of peace and always has a purpose or mission rather than going on blind rampages. For this reason, Mothra always exhibits great bravery (especially in larva form) against enemies much stronger than herself. Because of her whole peace and love angle, she is a fan favorite and the people in the movies always root for her against Godzilla. Jerks. Mothra is a pretty cool character in the G-series though, and was the second of Godzilla's foes to have starred in her own movie first.


-LENGTH: 174 feet (increased to 394 feet in '92)
-MASS: 16,500 tons
-SPECIAL POWERS: Web string attack from mouth

A giant egg washes onto Japan's shore after a violent storm. Sakai, the reporter, and his young photographer, Junko, are on the scene with Professor Miura to investigate. These three become the film's main protagonists. Everything's going fine until, you guessed it, this corporate asshole shows up claiming he owns the egg and wants to make money off it. Sometimes capitalism bites when a giant monster egg is involved. Anyway, Mothra's twin fairy priestesses warn the jerk to return the egg and naturally he refuses and kidnaps them as well. However, our three heroes get wise that holding onto this egg is a bad idea, and when they find out all the trouble this businessman's causing, they rescue the fairies, who then return to Infant Island empty handed. All attempts by the reporters and the professor to free the egg are unsuccessful. Never piss off people with a monster. Godzilla shows up (in his most unorthodox method in the series) rising from underground, a proceeds to do what he does best: go on a rampage through Japan. Before you have time to ask, "How the hell did Godzilla get underground anyway," you are preoccupied by some very entertaining footage of Godzilla thwarting every possible attempt by the military to harm him. Once again, seeing the gravity of the whole situation, Sakai, Junko, and Miura fly to Infant Island to petition the Natives for Mothra's help against Godzilla. As you'd expect, the Natives first tell them to go screw themselves, but the twin fairies come around and send Mothra (who is about to die anyway) out to fight. Mothra and Godzilla have a pretty good tussle in front of the egg, resulting in Mothra's death. But just when it looks like all hope is lost, the egg hatches and twin Mothra larvae emerge to defeat Godzilla with teamwork and their Web spray. Godzilla tumbles into the sea, Japan is saved, and the twin fairies ride on the new Mothras back to Infant Island.

This is considered by many, including myself, to be the best movie of the Showa series (1955-1975), excluding of course the very first Godzilla. The Honda, Ifukube, Tsuburaya dream-team together again and with great effectiveness. More so than the first movie, this entry truly establishes the theme of just how indestructible Godzilla is and that the military is useless against him. We see Godzilla slowly stomp through three elaborately planned military attacks without receiving so much as a scratch, before official decide to evacuate the city. At one point during filming one of these sequences, the Godzilla suit actually catches fire, which made it into the movie. Luckily no one was hurt, but it makes for an awesome addition to the film, albeit unintentional. At this point, the Japanese people begin to understand Godzilla as a force of nature. "Godzilla, mankind learns, is like a hurricane: you get out of the way and pick up the pieces once it's passed." Godzilla looks awesome and really mean, and maybe I'm just weird for enjoying human destruction, but I couldn't help but love him in this movie as a little kid.

The special effects are well done for their time and the surprisingly fashionable twin fairies from primitive Infant Island are probably in their best incarnation in this movie. We hear them sing the slightly goofy, but hilariously catchy "Mothra song" for the first of many times in this movie. Few things are funnier than getting caught humming the Mothra song in public. The twin fairies and the plight of Infant Island, destroyed by nuclear tests, give a slight environmental tone to the film, but it would seem that the central theme is loving every human and treating them as brothers. Good stuff for a monster movie.

Godzilla's battles against both Mothra incarnations are very entertaining and well done. Mothra flies around, knocks Godzilla over, and releases poison powder. Before she dies, in a last act of selflessness, she lands so that she can still shield her egg. You can't help but feel bad for the first Mothra when she gets her butt kicked, but the little ones more than make up for the loss. This is such a great Godzilla movie and most definitely worth a look!

Best Part:
There is some great comic relief provided by a reporter who works in the same newsroom as Sakai and Junko. The dude is always eating eggs when they are talking about the big monster egg story. My favorite line of his is when he is sent to the front-lines to cover the Godzilla attack: "I'm not as afraid of Godzilla as I am of the editor... he's meaner."

Truly though, the best part of this movie has to be the end. Mothra lies dead and Godzilla's rampage threatens a group of randomly located school children. There's an awesome homage to the first movie when Godzilla pops up behind a mountain in this part. But then, when you're ready to give up, the two baby Mothras hatch and take Godzilla down a notch in a most entertaining monster battle. Godzilla's gotta hate that stupid web crap, it gets him every time. Just wait until later in the series.

Here's a rundown of the movie's conclusion:

My Ranking: #5

Up next, Godzilla's first encounter with his most classic and reprised foe... "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster" 

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